More counseling support needed for students

With all the emphasis from the President on college and career readiness (which is not the primary goal of of education, but that’s for another blog), I would think there needs to be more attention to the chronic lack of counselors in our nation’s high schools.

According to The American School Counselors Association, high school counselors are responsible for providing timely and personal college and career guidance to hundreds of students (the average in California is 819 students/counselor). While these numbers presumably represent the number of counselors per students across the state, not in each school, we know that there are not enough counselors (in most high schools there is one) to service all the students.

This is particularly true today due to two concurrent trends. On the one hand, students are coming to school with ever greater counseling needs. On the other, counselors at many high schools are also the defacto standardized test coordinators. At smaller high schools (such as those in which I have taught) that serve students in middle school through high school or that run a block schedule, that means the counselor is unavailable to students for weeks at a time during the school year.

One of the best programs to help provide more college and career counseling for students was through the Tech Prep initiative some years ago. As part of that program, all the classroom teachers in a building were trained and provided time to do college and career consultation with students. Hence, students got more personal attention, more timely information, and it was reinforced throughout the school day/year.

Like many great ideas in education, it lasted only as long as the funding. I would love to see a return to this concept or an updating of it—say creation of cohorts of students served by a team of teachers, counselors, and other support personnel throughout their high school experience. Not just at a few select schools, but as a matter of general practice.

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